We're only three weeks into summer, and I've had all the summer movies I can stand.
It seems like every year around this time, I come to this conclusion. I look back at all the movies I've seen since the weather has gotten hotter and the days have gotten brighter and I realize I've wasted huge chunks of my time watching these horrible-ass movies. Whether it's action or sci-fi or even comedy (seriously, did you really think Ted was funny?), it's all just bad.
For a small, deluded minute there, I thought this season would be tolerable after I saw The Avengers, another brain-throttling comic-book flick that at least had its simple pleasures. (I don't know about you, but the most exciting moment in the movie for me is when Zodiac stars Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo are just sharing dried blueberries and shooting the shit.) However, the feeling quickly went away the following week when I saw Battleship, a stupid, clunky disaster of a film where Rihanna's gawdawful performance as a naval ship crew mate/ weapons specialist (you heard me!) was the least of its problems.
In a summer that has given us not one but two ambitious but heavily flawed films where Charlize Theron plays an evil bitch whom the audience can't help but cheer, these mega-budgeted blockbusters always appear to be hastily put together messes. In a business environment (never mind a creative environment) where release dates are often determined by studios before the script is even written, many summer movies often reek of desperation. You can just sense the cast and crew exhaustingly working to come up with something cohesive so it'll be all ready for its opening-day weekend.
And, yet, it's the very lack of cohesion that's a constant running theme throughout these movies. As much as we're supposed to believe that Prometheus is a heady, purposely ambiguous sci-fi trip, can anyone actually explain what the hell happened in that movie? Chances are things will be explained in the sequel, which Prometheus spent nearly all its screen time setting up.
Of course, this is the big problem with today's summer movies: They're mainly two-hour trailers for the next movie. Studios now live to make movie franchises, sets of brand-name films they know will make them easy money at the box office. (This pretty much explains Men in Black 3, a sequel nobody asked for but people saw anyway because, hey, it's Will Smith!) And, if an older franchise seems tired or over-exploited, why, they'll just "reboot" it with a whole new cast and crew. See: The Amazing Spider-Man.
Why do I see summer movies at all, then? It's habit and it's my job; and as a member of the media, it's also usually free. And I still want to know what people are talking about. I have a feeling most audiences do the same thing. People get so bombarded with the avalanche of hype—even though for the most part they're usually forgettable (hey, remember Pirates of the Caribbean 4 from last year? Didn't think so!)—that not seeing it would make them feel like they're out of the loop. Not to mention that a lot of these movies are so kid-friendly, if you're a parent and you don't take your kids to see them, you're a bad parent. It's like studios psychologically pressure people into seeing their crappy product. (Wait, you didn't see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? All your friends saw it! What's wrong with you? Aren't you proud to be an American? We know seeing it costs more than having dinner at the Olive Garden—but it's in 3-D!)
It hasn't all been bad—I sat through Avengers, Brave and Dark Shadows without wishing for death's sweet embrace. And I, like the rest of the world, hopes The Dark Knight Rises will come correct when it finally hits theaters next week. In all likelihood, I might start revisiting Moonrise Kingdom on a weekly basis just to remind myself you can actually have a wonderful time at the movies this time of year.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Ice age."